What We Saw in Salerno

I have spent hours researching festivals and events that we could overlap with, based on our travel schedule. The Truffle Festival in Langhe? Not for a few months. The jazz fest in Copenhagen? No dice. All to no avail: even smaller festivals seemed to be just outside our travel dates.

In Salerno, on the other hand, I had no idea that a festival was happening, but our timing was inadvertently perfect. Every year between November and February, Salerno hosts a large festival of lights. On the day that we arrived, the mayor officially turned on these lights, kicking off the season.

Now, many US towns do a Christmas tree lighting, usually right after Thanksgiving. This is not at all what this is about. For one, there was no tree in sight – though the citizens of this city will certainly celebrate the holiday. Instead, this is more like an unveiling of sculptures in a city: like ice carvings in Minneapolis each winter, or painted street car miniatures in New Orleans in 2008. Except, these were sculptures made of lights.Salerno's Carriage Lights

The biggest park in the city center was filled with them. There were trees and swans and musical notes and something that could have been a giant ladybug or a red spider. There were tunnels made of little lights. And then there were the themed groupings: Salerno's Magic Carpet Lightsa pumpkin next to Cinderella’s carriage, next to some mice working with spools of thread. Even the wicked stepsisters were depicted, though as cardboard cutouts with backlighting (B was not impressed). There was Captain Hook’s boat, with some alligators and a lit-up storybook.There was even a choir group singing under one of the lit-up tunnels. The participants were of various ages and levels of toughness, and they were singing a capella something that sounded like a Latin choral piece. We stood and listened for a bit.

In addition to the park of delights, there were also lights strung above our heads all around the city. Some pedestrian streets had various flowers, while another featured illuminated geometric shapes, and yet another had circus performers. Salerno's Solar System LightsThere were even magic carpets!

And we stumbled on a few special lights exhibits around the city: one of a complete solar system! Though presumably intended to be done at scale, it appeared inaccurate, B reported. Another exhibit featured heralding angels and a figurative swan. (No complaints about scale on this one, though the angels were mosquito-sized compared to the swan.)Salerno's Circus Lights

B said the whole thing reminded him of a lights display in a suburb he would have gone to as a kid. So, it was like having nostalgia, on the opposite side of the world.

Across the entire city, these beautiful light displays made it fun to wander the narrow streets of the town. We weren’t the only ones strolling: it seemed that all of the locals came out to meander each night. A few people ducked into the many stores along the widened main drag of the town, but most simply crawled along. They said hello, they got their children balloons or cotton candy, they walked at a snail’s pace arm in arm. In a way, I felt like we had walked into a county fair in the Midwest: no rush, no good reason to miss it, no one in a bad mood. It was one of my favorite things to do in all of Italy.

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2 thoughts on “What We Saw in Salerno

  1. Pingback: Surprising Things About Salerno | Novelty Buffs

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